When it comes to QB, Vikings must balance the future with winning now
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It might be the most intriguing question surrounding the Minnesota Vikings entering this week's NFL draft:
Would a team that came up a field goal short of the Super Bowl consider using the No. 30 overall pick on a quarterback of the future, rather than a player who can help them take the final step now?
The short answer is yes. NFL teams don't expend the resources they do on scouting to go against their board on draft day, selecting for need even if the player has a significantly lower grade. Also, most scouts agree quarterback is the game's most important position, making long-term plans at the spot critical to a team's viability.
All indications are the Vikings expect and want veteran Brett Favre to return for a 20th NFL season, but he's 40 years old and has been on a year-to-year plan for most of the past decade. Neither of his backups, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, has proven worthy of being handed the job when Favre walks away.
Considering such a pick and actually making it are two different things, though, and several current and former NFL scouts presented competing cases in recent interviews with 1500ESPN.com.
An AFC personnel man said it would be "a perfect situation" to develop a young quarterback, assuming the Vikings are smitten with -- and have the opportunity to select -- Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, Florida's Tim Tebow or perhaps Texas' Colt McCoy.
"You'd have the incumbent veteran starter who will tutor and mentor your futures/2011 guy for one season," the personnel man said. "Who better to do that with than a Brett Favre-type -- to sit behind the wheel of Brett Favre's car and learn from the best, and then in 2011, you have a guy who hasn't been thrown to the wolves, who has a year under his belt, would be tutored and mentored under one of the best that's ever played the position."
One problem with that argument is Favre probably wouldn't take well to the Vikings using their top pick to find his replacement.
Ted Thompson's first draft pick as Green Bay Packers general manager in 2005 was Aaron Rodgers, and Favre has admitted he began to distrust Thompson from that point forward. The relationship between Favre and Rodgers often was icy, especially the first year.
Would Favre be so upset by the pick he'd tell the Vikings he's retiring for good? Maybe not, but he'd surely prefer Brad Childress, Rick Spielman and company bring in someone who can help the team now.
"They are so close," said Daniel Jeremiah, the former Baltimore and Cleveland scout who runs the Web site movethesticks.com.
"Look at the impact that their first rounder had last year, (receiver/return man) Percy Harvin. If they can somehow duplicate that -- which would be a tall order -- but if somehow they could duplicate that kind of production from any position, that might be enough to get them over the hump. I mean, golly, they're an overtime away from being in the Super Bowl."
Jeremiah cited the Denver Broncos' decision to draft Tommy Maddox 25th overall in the 1992 draft as a similar case. Like the Vikings this year, the Broncos were months removed from a three-point loss in a conference championship game and had a future Pro Football Hall of Famer (John Elway) returning. They fell back to 8-8 the following season.
An NFC pro scout said he doubted the Vikings would take a quarterback but added, "You never know. People do crazy (things). Those quarterbacks are like aces, and we all say it -- it is a quarterback-driven league, and you're better to have two than to have none. They turn into gold."
Of course, the entire point would be moot if the quarterback the Vikings covet -- if they covet any of the top prospects at all -- is off the board in the first 29 picks.
There has been speculation Clausen could slide to the bottom of the first round, but a league source indicated several teams at least are posturing about trading into the low single-digits or early teens to get him. Another source said he expects a team at the top of Round 2 -- Washington, Seattle, Cleveland, Oakland and Buffalo could be possibilities -- to trade back into the first round if Clausen slides into the 20s.
"If Jimmy Clausen was still on the board on that (30th) spot," the AFC personnel man said, "it wouldn't surprise me at all if (the Vikings) took him."
The Vikings recently dispatched offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to Clausen's campus workout, while Childress attended McCoy's and conducted a private workout with Tebow. One source said to bet on Tebow going in the bottom of the first round but didn't think the Vikings would take him.
McCoy seems more likely to come off the board in the second round, where a group including Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour could be in play. There are some low-profile prospects on the rise, too, including Fordham's John Skelton, who probably is a mid-round pick.
No matter where the Vikings would select a quarterback, they'd most likely end up jettisoning Jackson or Rosenfels. But that, like everything else, assumes Favre returns.
"We're talking Brett's back, Brett's gone -- that's (the question)," the NFC scout said, "and again, he holds the cards, which is hard."
Not hard: sorting out the meaning if the Vikings do take a quarterback with their top draft pick.
They have a significant hole at cornerback, need a complementary running back, lack quality depth at linebacker and could stand to upgrade multiple spots along the offensive line. In terms of this year, quarterback falls well down the list.
Taking a quarterback at No. 30 would be a move for 2011. And that would be tough to swallow for veteran players who can see their championship window closing.
Especially the one veteran player who might not have finalized his decision on whether he'll take one more shot at a title in 2010.